Posts Tagged ‘weight room’
It’s around this time of year that hockey seasons are beginning to wrap up. Playoffs are either over for some or still going for others. For the ones that didn’t make it to the playoffs or have already been eliminated the focus begins to shift to next season. They start thinking of what they want to accomplish the following year. For some of our players they will looking to make the jump to the next level. For some they will entering their final year at that level and want to have an impact year. And others have had a taste of playing at the highest level and want to continue to improve and contribute more. And for all of these players these goals start with the off-season.
The off-season is when the bulk of the work is done is preparing a hockey player to succeed. This is where previous injuries are addressed and fortified. This is the time when additional size is added for those players whose game would improve as a result.
*** A quick side note regarding gaining weight. Never look to gain weight just for the sake of being heavier. When we add mass to the frame of one of our hockey players it has to be functional weight. By that I mean weight that allows the player to continue to move optimally with no loss in speed or mobility. They are the same quality of athlete, they just weigh more.***
This is also the time when we look to increase the strength of the player and gradually translate that strength to increased power production.
But before you step foot in the weight room and begin addressing all of the items listed above it is important to do something else first. The first thing to do is communicate.
Talk to your coaches from the previous season and find out what they think you should work on. Find out what they think would benefit you the most. Ask them what they thought your strengths were so you continue to include these in your repertoire of skills.
In addition to your coaches talk to whomever will be overseeing your training. Ask them the same questions you asked your coaches. Ask them to help you set some goals. Ask them if they would get in contact with your coaches and fill them in on your plans for the summer. This shows initiative and let’s your coaches know you are serious about improving during the off-season.
Repeat this process of communication with as many of the people that will have a hand in your off-season development. This could included: physiotherapists, chiropractors, trainers, massage therapists, dietician’s, sports psychologists, medical doctor and anyone else who will work with you during the off-season and whose opinion you respect.
The more people you have in your corner the better. And from my perspective I feel confident knowing I am seeing the same things that are relevant to the other professionals involved. For example, if the massage therapist is detecting a tightness in the hip flexors this will help me to watch for this in the training and be able to prescribe drills which will address the issue.
As well, you can be more efficient in your training by focussing on the areas of commonality among all parties involved. If all the coaches are preaching the same message for areas to be addressed during the off-season then we can feel fairly comfortable in zeroing in these keys while not wasting time on elements which are not as relevant to your particular needs. As well there is less duplication of efforts.
Lastly, if one of the individuals in your camp notices something different than everyone than this is also important. These are referred to stastically as outliers and can be very beneficial if relevant. For example, consider that one practitioner sees something in your assessment that no one else picked up. This may be the key to ensuring you are that much more resilient to injury than if it was missed entirely.
So before you get too far into your off-season training spend some time to connect with everyone that is or will be working with you next season. Encourage all the relevant parties to communicate amongst each other. Coaches love to see this in their players, it allows for everyone to be on the same page and makes for an efficient off-season of training.
In the last post, Common hockey power training mistakes, I outlined 5 common mistakes hockey players will make when attempting increase their power through their weight room workouts. But simply because we adhere to the rules of this previous post doesn’t mean we are set to go with our training. The reason we aren’t quite ready is that there a continuum of training where we are working on developing different athletic abilities at different times.
When one season of play finishes it makes sense to take some time, relax and reflect on the previous season. At this time it’s important to reflect on how the season went. What worked and what didn’t? What areas need extra attention during the off-season? What injuries pose potential weak links left unaddressed? What would your coaches say you need to work on? If you are hoping to play up a level next year what areas of your game next to improve to make for a smooth transition? Answering the above questions allows the off-season training program to be specific and dialed in to your particular needs.
When you are ready to begin training you must realize that the body responds better when the training follows in a particular sequence. For example it makes sense to condition, to strengthen, to add power and finally to make the training sport-specific. And there’s a rationale to this sequence.
You see when you focus on conditioning first you can establish a good base for the rest of the training. As well, as you are trying to correct movement patterns or teach a technique you can get in number of repetitions to coach the movement which also serves as a conditioning stimulus.
From there to proceed to a strength goal is logical as a better conditioned muscular system has the potential to become a stronger muscular system. Think about it. If your fitness is poor this may be the weak link in your training as opposed to the resistance on the bar.
Next, a stronger muscular system has the potential to become a more powerful muscular system. Power is the product of force and velocity. Two ways to become faster are to move a heavier load or to move the same load faster. The stronger a hockey player is the more capacity there is to generate power.
Lastly, the most sport-specific an athlete can get is by practicing the sport itself. And the off-season training program winds down the hockey player is usually looking to get in some more ice sessions and quality scrimmages prior to training camp. As well, the drills in the weight become more intensive and powerful and agility sessions take on more of a chaotic and competitive nature.
This progressive and sequential approach to training is supported in the literature. A recent study coming out in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise tried to answer the question of what was important to an athlete’s muscular power, strength or power training? What they found was that strength training should be the emphasis, for less training athletes. They concluded that a distinct focus on power training would not be warranted until a threshold of strength had been achieved.
So although power plays, pun intended, in hockey often make the highlight reel it is important to follow the sequence of training described. This allows for further gains, helps prevent overtraining and transfers more effectively to hockey performance.
Hockey is definitely a game of flow. For example, think to the last great game you watched or played and most likely you enjoyed this game primarily due to the outcome. But even though your team ended up on the right side of the winning column this game was memorable because it had flow. Sometimes this means the refs ‘put away their whistles’ and allowed the teams to play. This creates an exciting style of hockey that is both fun to play and watch.
Besides the flow of the game and the back and forth rushes for both sides there is also a level of excitement when there is a change in the game. This can be a change in the score or a change in momentum after a team that is down kills off a penalty or wins a fight.
The changes in flow aren’t completely random and players can influence many aspects of the game and sometimes the outcome itself when they create a change. And sometimes the best players are the ones that have the greatest potential to create change in the game. Consider the following.
Which player would you rather have on your team? The one who is moderately fast and goes all-out 100% of the time? Or the one who is just as fast, or maybe a step faster, but chooses key moments in the game to exploit the opponent with their speed?
Think about as well how the previous scenario relates to the emotions of the players. While you definitely want to play with emotion you want to be in control. Sometimes the player who is going 100% has an emotional disposition to match and is less likely to stay in control in the heat of the moment.
Think as well about how this relates to your energy levels during a game. If you’re going 100% all the time what will your energy be like in the 3rd period? And if the game goes into OT can you sustain your intensity?
Now don’t confuse the above with coasting or slacking. You need to bring your best every opportunity you get. And if you are a 3rd or 4th line player sometimes you need to go a little more than the rest in order to catch the coach’s eye. You can play intensely, put in 100% effort but still be in control.
Think about the greats of the game and you can picture the flow and changes in their games. Gretzky’s head used to bob up and down when he was really pushing (I’m not recommending this technique, just making the point that you could identify when he had changed gears).
Your hockey training is similar in this regard. Some days are all-out and intense while others are low intensity. Some training sessions are short and others are long. You wouldn’t go in the weight room and try and go 100% for the whole hour never mind doing this every time you worked. So remember the ebb and flow of a great game of hockey and keep this in mind as you perform your hockey training workouts.
One thing I really enjoy about my job is being able to see the impact it has on a player’s game. While a player may make huge gains in the weight room and put up some impressive lifts this can be all for naught if in the end the player isn’t performing when the puck drops on a new season. I feel privileged to be able to watch the hockey players we work with during the 0ff-season play during the year. From spending a couple hours almost every day with these players I know their strengths, the weak links they worked hard to address, their work ethics, their attitudes and every else that is important to success in hockey. And once a player moves on to the next level I may make a trip to catch some of their games and see how everything is going. Recently I had chance to sit down and grab some breakfast with one of these hockey players that has moved on from the WHL and is now playing in the AHL.
After spending some time catching up and sharing stories I asked this player what he thought was one of the biggest differences to jumping fromt the ‘dub’ to the AHL. There are lot of things that he could have said from the speed of the game, to the age of the players, to the amount of travel or the amount of preparation that goes into every game. But here’s what he said.
The biggest difference he noticed at the next level was the attention the veteran players put on their preparation. Whether it be proper dynamic warm-ups, to foam rolling to adequate cool down and regeneration after games and practices there was a significant difference at this next level. Players recognize and put more attention in the soft-tissue work that helps keep everything in alignment, keeps what should be mobile, mobile and keeps what should be stable, stable. In other words these players had figured out that the best way to get your body prepped for top performance and to recover most quickly was by doing the little things. Gone are the days of playing sewer ball and singing in the showers as a pre-game ritual. Now it was seeing what is going on at the next level, modelling those who are having success and reaping the rewards as a result.
Cody Almond – Minnesota Wild
***Update to this story. Since we had that breakfast Cody Almond has been on a tear in the AHL. This hasn’t gone with out notice by the Minnesota Wild and today Cody was called up to make his NHL debut.***
Sometimes it’s hard to see where all the little things factor in to the game of hockey especially when it involves something done off-ice. So whenever you have the chance to see a player up a level doing the little things pay attention and look to see how you can incorporate this into your routine.